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Exploring the Link Between ADHD and Vision Problems

If your child has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), all of his or her symptoms may not be caused by the disorder. A surprising number of children also have vision problems that contribute to or worsen ADHD. Treating these issues can help improve your son or daughter’s ability to focus.

ADHD and Vision Problems

Imagine how hard it would be to read if all the letters on the page were doubled, or if you had to put a hand over one eye just to get through one paragraph. You would probably give up fairly soon and focus on other things that did not require such an intense level of concentration. Dealing with a vision problem alone would challenge your ability to read and learn. If ADHD symptoms compounded the problem, your ability to identify and process words and images would be very low.

Researchers discovered that it’s not unusual for children who have ADHD to also have certain vision problems. A 2005 retrospective review published in Strabismus noted a three-fold greater incidence of convergence insufficiency in children who had ADHD. Convergence insufficiency occurs when your eyes do not work together to focus on near objects. Children who have the problem may:

  • Avoid near work
  • Have trouble reading
  • Find it difficult to concentrate
  • Experience headaches, eye strain and double vision

Since their eyes look perfectly fine and their vision is not affected, the problem often goes undetected.

In another study published in 2014 in the Journal of the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, researchers reported that 22.9 percent of children with either optic albinism, optic atrophy, retinopathy of prematurity or optic nerve hypoplasia also had ADHD diagnoses. Their vision impairments ranged from mild to moderate.

How Can Parents Tell If Vision Impairment or ADHD Is to Blame For Symptoms?

Distinguishing between vision problems and ADHD behaviors is not always easy. Although some eye conditions obviously affect your child’s ability to see clearly, others may be harder to detect. If you are wondering if vision problems may be related to your child’s diagnosis, a visit to a vision therapist is a good idea. Vision therapists are optometrists who are specially trained to diagnose vision problems that cannot be corrected simply by prescribing eye glasses. They create treatment plans designed to develop and improve visual skills.

How Can Vision Therapy Help My Child?

Vision therapy involves improving the way the eyes, brain, visual pathways and muscles work together. It’s often used to improve:

  • Focus
  • Eye teaming and alignment
  • Visual tracking
  • Eye movement
  • Visual processing

Your child’s treatment plan may include working with prisms, balance boards, filters and electronic targets, in addition to eye exercises. Although that may sound complicated, all activities are designed to appeal to children. In fact, many children look forward to their sessions and enjoy playing the games and participating in other therapeutic activities.

Do you think that a vision problem may be making your child’s ADHD symptoms worse? We offer vision testing that can identify a range of problems that may affect that your son or daughter’s ability to focus. Call us today to schedule an appointment.

3 Signs of Children’s Vision Problems

Signs of a focusing or processing problem are usually not obvious. If your child exhibits any of these symptoms, a vision problem may be to blame.

Eye Strain

Eye strain can be a problem if your child must work hard to decipher words. Your child may experience blurred vision, difficulty focusing on images, dry or sore eyes, eyes that tear easily or double vision.


Does your child get tired quickly when he or she reads? Not surprisingly, fatigue can a sign of a vision problem. It takes a lot of energy to try read when your eyes do not work well together or you have another type of vision problem. In some cases, your child may actually fall asleep while reading, even if it’s the middle of the day.

Head Pain

The eyes and the muscles that control the eyes must work together for perfect vision. If they cannot, the muscles may become sore, which can cause headaches, pain around the temples or tightness in the back of the head and neck.


Strabismus: The Relationship Between Convergence Insufficiency and ADHD, 05/13/05

American Optometric Association: The ADHD-Vision Connection

UAB News: New Study Shows Link Between ADHD and Vision Impairment in Children, 03/25/16

National Institute of Mental Health: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, 03/2016

All About Vision: Vision Therapy for Children

College of Optometrists in Vision Development: Convergence Insufficiency

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